Lego Builder's Journey is a puzzle game where you build things with legos. Yeah. That's the best premise for a puzzle game, and surprising it took this long for something like it to come out. Obviously there have been many lego games but those are more just platformers with a lego theme. When i was kid I was all over legos, they were a big part of my childhood. So as you can imagine i was pretty excited for something like this.
And, its good. Its not a great game. But its good. For something as creative as legos this game feels surpisingly restrictive. Lots of levels only give you a select few pieces and while you can technically complete them in any way you want, there isnt really that many options. Not to say some levels arent pretty clever. And there were quite a few I liked a lot but seemingly just as many with weird mechanics that expect you to think outside of the box despite the majority of the game being very straightforward.
The story is... there I guess. Theres definitely something but its all about the visuals and music. Its a little abstract and I didnt particularly care for it, but Im also terrible at picking up on things so maybe its actually pretty good. Thankfully what the story is made up of, those aformentioned music and visuals are really good. The music is very peaceful and fits the game well. Obviously everything is lego but the little diorama-esque levels are all very pretty looking with some fantastic lighting.
The game happens to be quite short which may make it seem a little expensive for the price tag but its just a little puzzle game, I dont think these types of games need to be long and I prefer wanting more than overstaying its welcome. Quality is over quantity and this game has the quality. There is also a creative mode where you can build sandcastles as your leisure which is neat but also feels as restrictive as the main game. Still holding out for a game thats just minecraft creative mode but with legos.
Trophy Completion - 100% (no platinum)
Time Played - 3 hours 2 minutes (some idle)
Nancymeter - 72/100
Game Completion #89 of 2022
August completion #9
I am a very strong believer in the idea that the fans are the future of Sonic. I don’t think this in a cynical “Sonic Team is so incompetent that the fans need to make the good games themselves” kind of way, but in a way that their optimism and excitement for Sonic can come shining through in what they make. Even the more flawed ones have an endless stream of passion to them. That always makes me glad that I experienced them regardless. Despite everything, the Sonic fanbase is so wonderful and creative that I can’t help but be optimistic for what comes from it.
To say I don’t feel any of that passion from Sonic Omens is mincing words. It feels like it’s actively spitting in the face of that optimism I described. It’s flat-out abusing the good will that comes from fan games all to line their own pockets using an IP that they do not own. (Which could also potentially put other fan games in jeopardy if Sega does try to take action against them for heavily monetizing the project) Knowing the sheer volume of harassment and attempted censorship that came from Ouroboros Studio surrounding the game disgusts me beyond words. This document right here provides more information on what’s been going on behind the scenes with this game than I could describe or feel comfortable describing.
The bottom line is: do not support this game whatsoever. There’s a whole world of Sonic fangames with so much more genuine passion for the franchise than this piece of shit could ever pretend to have. It’s the most sickened I’ve been by a project in a while.
This review contains spoilers
Give me a year or two, and I’ll probably know what I think of the story by then- I think I liked it?
Would have gladly traded a few of the expository scenes for some more of the slice-of-life stuff; I don’t think Iori or Hijiyama have the greatest stories, but the focus on their daily life was an appreciated reprieve from being inundated by all the “mystery box” teases. If there’s anything that might weaken this game with time, it’s the realization that you can play through an entire character’s plotline and still not know them- ended up thinking of about half the cast more as delivery vessels for exposition than as fully-formed characters unto themselves.
Interested in how much a different character order might change that perspective, though. I’ve been thinking on KingBancho’s review where he discussed the value of the narrative despite the lack of interactivity- something I was debating over the course my playthrough. I know I enjoyed playing as Ryoko more than most of the characters because I felt the same confusion and pressure she did, constantly trying to place where I was, who was telling the truth- a feeling that was strengthened by having her sections take place under the pressure of time limit. And I wondered if other characters could've benefited from similar mechanical additions: would Natsuno's story be more compelling with stealth sections, or should Yuki's investigation have had interviews you could fail at? (I know what the armchair designer in me thinks.)
But that's an admittedly narrow view, and on a broader level, it’s the player who’s stitching the whole thing together, an editor with a hazy sense of the script deciding on the final cut. That might also explain why the game loses steam in the latter half- if you’re anything like me, you’ll rush to complete your favorite characters storylines whenever they become available, while the back end is spent begrudgingly clearing out whoever’s left, the pacing suffering more because of player agency than weak writing. There's a post by author BC that has me especially curious about how choosing a different sequence of events could change my reading of the story, as they noted playing everything chronologically made the narrative more satisfying, saying:
The nebulous satisfaction provided by the ending actually felt like a deeper and more meaningful achievement for these characters because I could understand what they overcame to get there. I saw their growth as the product of choices made early in the plot, not just a series of sort-of-arbitrary, disconnected scenarios. During moments of heightened tension, I understood what the characters stood to lose, and the way their trauma informed who they were and what they cherished.
And it’s an interesting dilemma, letting players dictate the pace of a story that stands to be weaker than a traditionally-authored narrative, but one fueled by a insatiable curiosity that’ll have you darting between stories as you start to slowly unravel the truth- something that would likely be lost if you couldn’t decide where the story headed next.
Certainly more engrossing than the RTS missions; think it mostly serves its purpose as a break from the VN sections, something you can get deep into but isn’t really a requirement- all I’ll say is that I found it was much more tactically engaging with less units. On the few missions that have an optional objective to play with 4 characters instead of 6, I was pushed to consider every facet of the game more seriously: take one sentinel from every generation to cover your bases or commit to a lopsided strategy? And in the missions themselves I felt like I had to properly strategize, really thinking about how to use my four turns to overcome the odds instead of just committing half my team to turret/missile rain duty.
But it’s the first Vanillaware game I’ve finished and one I’d like to revisit someday, so I guess that makes it a rousing success for a developer whose games I’ve spent more time trying to like than actually enjoying.
13 Sentinels Review, KingBancho
The Narrative Box of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, BC (The link is acting weird- had to cancel loading the page to actually see the article)
You see, having a character be a walking offensive gay stereotype is without a shadow of a doubt homophobia, but so is completely removing the character by not getting the memo that he was a pejorative caricature and that gay people are humans too, so I'm not really sure how to feel about the whole Ash situation.
Suplexing with the kangaroo was funny tho...
When I was younger and I hadn’t played many older games and I wasn’t really paying attention to the ones that I HAD I would often find myself thinking that while some games were obviously worth recognizing for being the first in iconic series and having cool music and being the foundations upon which great things would be built, there wasn’t ACTUALLY that much separating something like a Mario or a Zelda from the kinds of games that we had in my house growing up that were utterly forgotten by history like Kung Fu Heroes and Swords and Serpents, or actively maligned like Home Alone 2 or Battletoads. OBVIOUSLY this was an ignorant way to think about these games, a dismissive attitude informed by an unwillingness to branch out of my comfort zone, one that I talk about often on here. Making an active effort to shed this attitude is a general good because it not only helps me better appreciate the more run of the mill or forgotten games of the era as worthy of attention and examination but it does also help me identify DA CLASSICS and goddamn is Castlevania ever one of those.
Obviously there’s a lot here that does this, from the nonstop bangers (a game with ten pieces of music where every single one of them is a stone cold classic broooooooo) that are perfectly matched to the tone of each stage, to the variety between those stages despite the relatively limited bag of tricks the devs were working with, to the deliberate control scheme, to the distinctly minimal number of fuck off dickhead unfair set pieces. Even the premise is pitch perfect, goofy enough to be remarkable, for every moment where you turn a proverbial corner into a new boss pulled from the classic movie monster canon to be worth a hearty chuckle without shedding the instantly classic schlock horror vibe it’s cultivating.
I think the thing that’s really cool to me though, especially for a game from 1986, is how well Castlevania establishes, uh Castlevania. Like, the castle itself. For a game with literally no text in it, Castlevania (the game) does an incredible job at rooting you in its senses of character, of narrative, of place. The theme park tour of Dracula’s castle takes you through grounds and gardens, over towers and parapets, down into dungeons and caves, and it all feels like a natural progression. You get that little map screen in between stages that shows your progress through the castle and you can really feel it. Castlevania does the smart thing of mixing you up between moving left-to-right and moving right-to-left too, which doesn’t sound like much but it does make it feel a lot more like you’re working your way through a real building complex and less like only a series of levels. This kind of attention to detail is what elevates those good games to Great ones. It makes Castlevania a real pleasure to experience, it makes it immersive. It’s so cool to find that degree of world in a linear sidescrolling action platformer on the NES. Games are so cool! It’s this kind of shit that keeps me excited for the medium.
FUCK the hallway before the grim reaper though, all my homies hate the hallway before the grim reaper.
In it's attempts to combine the lengthy story and battle system of Final Fantasy VII with the fully real-time movement and exploration of Super Mario 64, Kingdom Hearts is a slam dunk. Everything from the subtleties in Sora's movement to the smooth integration of context-sensative actions in the game world is handled with a level of care and precision that you wouldn't expect from a game that's seemingly being pulled in so many different directions. It's not necessarily the best at the many things it attempts, even at release, but it's admirable just how cohesive the entire package feels. Kingdom Hearts has a lot of meat on it's bones, and it feels pretty evenly-spread across the whole game.
In much the same way that it's gameplay derivatives form something greater than the sum of their parts, the story utilizes it's oddball premise and several disparate IPs to create an unforgettable atmosphere and tone. The nostalgic whimsy combined with somber melancholy and an abstract presentation lend the game a distinct, bittersweet feel. If you played this game at the right time in your life, you know what I felt.
Kingdom Hearts II is an outstanding action game and a great sequel, but outside of that I feel completely indifferent towards all the sequels and spin-off games. Putting aside the fact that I think a couple of them are just straight up bad, they generally just don't understand what made the series special in the first place. Somewhere in it's quest to become... whatever the hell it is now, it lost much of it's identity in the first place. I won't hammer on about this since there are people who enjoy these other games, but frankly they are the furthest thing from what Kingdom Hearts represents to me and their existence cheapens the original game.
So, ahem, this is when I give a whole-hearted recommendation to this game and say that it's a great and awesome and super fun and unique and every other positive descriptor. If you'll forgive me for going for such low-hanging fruit, this game has a whole lot of heart.
The great beginning of the legendary trilogy! To this day, the game is the best space opera in this genre. Everything looks very interesting and exciting, from the character creation screen and its story to the ending, which depends on your decisions throughout the game. The game gives a sense of the event's scale and importance. The depicted universe is well developed and detailed. It is interesting to reveal its secrets and the depth of history. Each character you interact with has an interesting background and can develop in their own way depending on your decisions. All these details add depth and intrigue to the plot.
The gameplay is varied and dynamic, combining different weapons and abilities. The exploration of distant planets is usually not very exciting. Mostly, it all comes down to finding resources and hidden bases in almost empty monotonous locations. A large amount of resources can create problems because after the missions to sort out endlessly deep baggage.
The graphics are suitable for their time. The musical accompaniment is wonderful and atmospheric.
The game can be played multiple times.
me: The villain of What Remains of Edith Finch? Wouldn't call it a "villain" personally, but in the sense that it's the source of the tragic events of the story I'd say it's intergenerational trauma, interlinked with mental illness. Though obviously certain characters make bad, often neglectful decisions which cause harm, I feel it would be callous and mistaken to call any of them a "villain". The developers walk a fine line of weaving into each family tragedy both their virtues and their weaknesses/blind spots to create a sense of ironic inevitability, conveying to the audience each family member's individual experience trying to process and overcome their cumulative grief/psychosis before succumbing to it. Situating Edith (at the tip of the nearly-dead family tree and the only hope for it to continue) as the player character tasked with interpreting or reinterpreting each story (which are often conveyed through second- or third-hand accounts that naturally invite skepticism and critical reading) forces us to confront the familial fear that one's fate is predestined, while allowing relative detachment from which she/we hope to find some lasting healing for herself and her child. If anything, the attempt to identify a culpable villain is a trap the game seems to hope Edith avoids: there is no silver bullet for personal demons, no solution from without to solve any one person's inherited trauma and self-destructive patterns. Convincing yourself that someone else or a family curse is the sole cause of your tragic circumstances can cause you to neglect your own capacity and responsibility (obviously excepting systemic social issues here, this isn't some conservative "don't blame other people for your failures" argument). Though we may understandably lash out in blame at those who seem to pull us in and perpetuate these tragic cycles--and it may be necessary to cut off those whose coping mechanisms perpetuate the inherited trauma, as Edith's mother does for her and her children's sake--we must recognize they are also suffering and also coping and also deserve our sympathy. That the Finches and Edie in particular are often irrational (sometimes ridiculously, Gashlycrumb Tinies-ly so) does not speak to villainy, it speaks to the central metaphor and family dynamic being explored and the style being adopted.
a video essay with 4.5 million views: the villain is the old lady, that attention-craving bitch
Another smash hit on the N64, Banjo-Kazooie was one of Rare's most popular games on the system. I don't have much nostalgia for this game like so many others may however I do have fond memories watching one of my childhood friends play it at their house.
Many games by Rare ooze charm, and this game is no different. It was such a joy to run around the various worlds and see what was in store for me. Each area has its own unique aesthetic and has setpieces that make each area feel distinct and varied.
Being a collectathon, naturally there are a lot of things to collect, and the level design does a good job to ensure that nothing is ever TOO cryptic. There are also tons of options for movement and combat, and you can unlock more abilities as you progress through the game.
Really my only complaint is the hub world, Gruntilda's lair. I do not think it's a good hub world. Those who know me know I enjoy hub worlds and I actually prefer them rather than going from level to level. Gives you something else to do rather than the same ol' shtick, you know? However, Banjo-Kazooie's hub world felt tedious to traverse in my opinion. It wasn't aesthetically pleasing like Super Mario 64's Peach's Castle, it was just dark, dreary, and boring.
Other than that minor issue, this game is great, and deserves to be regarded as one of the N64's better games.
Recently a mild friend of mine and game designer I'm a huge fan of released a video about Vampire Survivors as a sort of 'non-game'. You can view it here. So I first want to say I respect where she is coming from and how a seasoned game designer sees the same exploitative psychology in slow upgrade action RPG rougelikes as having the same skinnerbox habits. Essentially, she demands a specific rage on a particular point, when talking about the game she notices the lack of combat design, that regardless of your loadout the approach is always the same, dodge into the infinite void. "This is not combat design, this is NOTHING".
This argument is well put and rhetorically focused, and the focus on not wasting audience time is an apt starting point for most sensible game experience vehicles (although it's exactly where stuff like The Beginner's Guide comes in to take friction, but I digress). However, I do feel like 20 Minutes Till Dawn has something to include into this sort of discussion.
20 Minutes Till Dawn is an absurdly, vastly, better game for anybody who has played it. There's aim based weapon variety which require aiming at the enemy + slightly increased obstacle evasion, better aesthetic sensibilities, and a 10 minute decrease in overall time spent with the game. And all the characters you can play are slender girls with aesthetic principles rather than just Castlevania cardboard cutouts. You would be surprised how much difference these small changes make to the game experience.
At 10 minutes in, the combat variety is increased with a boss fight in a limited section of the map, it's not just mindless shoot and dodge. Your character load outs are all different with different effects they have and guns they can choose from.
This is not to say that 20 Minutes Till Dawn is a game you should play, it still has a randomness factor in the level ups and permanent upgrades, along with a lack of enemy variety but there's a measurable improvement on all other areas of play. But it's also not one that I can say with any degree of reprehensibility that you shouldnt.
Most early arcade games were not actually intended to be played ad infinitum, and so didn't have much difficulty throttling besides endurance and usually underdesigned obstacles. One that comes to mind is shown in the 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters where one of the primary subject Steve Weibe tries for the high score on Donkey Kong. In it his 2 main obstacles to success here are endurance and behind the scenes corruption in the high scoring scene itself. Yet there's a few moments splintered throughout Donkey Kong as an endurance test where the obstacles prove as Absurd, particularly one moment the documentary goes in depth about is 3rd Elevators. As shown by the example here, this is not good game design, this is game design that you're purely trying to outperform against, it's gaming as a higher level endurance sport with these janky obstacle getting in the way, but when we talk about it from the perspective of 'pure design' it becomes obnoxiously under considered and frustrating. Vampire Survivors is trying to bring this older style of play and experience as a rigourous test of endurance into contemporary progression systems. The idea is that you will eventually learn more optimal builds and try to finesse around the randomness to your best ability and endure its counting clock to a satisfying end. It's a neat idea of course but as an actualization of that system it's a fucking failure due in large part to its genuine lack of difficulty in general. Vampire Survivors is easy and genuinely uninteresting, its popcorn entertainment you can bloat on. But 20 Minutes Till Dawn is by all metrics an improvement and an actualization on that system, one that I think could be further improved upon but it a great step in the right direction, with fair inputs and a decent balance of difficulty and variety. The variety offered from skilled play means improvement exists.
The issue though is that 20 Minutes Till Dawn is a blatant clone of Vampire Survivors. We can't talk about it without admitting its apeing the formula with the exception of course that some people will decide to play it first.
Sometimes when we write about genres we don't like, I think we have a habit of trying to 'outsmart' the habits of the average gamer by implying that what they are doing is lackluster. The mobile gamer is a moron because Candy Crush is worse Bewjewled and they are both braindead match threes. FPS games are needlessly violent but its also point and click, nevermind that COD, TF2, and Splatoon all play and look completely differently. Incremental games are often derided as 'cookie clickers' and with the forward momentum of socio-cultural movement the nuances and interests start to roll into one another.
In the beginning of July, a close online friend of mine Nyx, who is a fashionista and film geek came over to my parents house which at 25 I'm still trapped in. I sat around with extreme anxiety about 'what were we going to do'. I didn't like going outside, and I was nervous about the fact all I had to do was really play on a computer. But those anxieties were severely eased when I realized how low maintenance my friend Nyx was, me and her would play this game a half dozen times in the morning hopping on and off the 1 player remote commenting on the general improvements as they happened. "I unlocked a new character!"..."Check out this new gun!". "Woah there's an upgrade system in here I didn't even know about". etc.
It was a blast and made me realize a certain nuance, a zen and kinship to gaming that is often ineffable to describe. And while I'm often deeply wracked with regret and anxiety I'll always look positively on this experience as I used to in a similar way when I went over to my other friends house and played Bloodbourne on her PS5 and traded idle chatter between some of the most incredible moments in a game. Or when the love of my life was around with me as I played the frustrating and slow No More Heroes system on the Wii as she cheered me on.
For me, gaming is one of the most deeply engrained social experiences I have, and a game constantly demanding a perfect difficulty curve is not always wanted. As much as you can trash something like Vampire Survivors, its Action RPG rougelite elements share a degree with Spelunky etc. It shares an 'evasion mechanic' with Binding of Isaac which despite Nyx's limited experience with games shares it as a favourite 'time waster' game.
But no matter what there will be downtime or lulls or things that are not perfect, things that are innovated eventually with time. Vampire Survivors had to walk so that 20 Minutes Till Dawn could take stride, and who knows, there will be another game in this genre yet we dont even know about. But it takes time, and game design is a paintbrush with time itself as the chronological palette. For what other art form has racing through the painting or enduring through it as long as possible as a genuinely lauded sport you can improve on. If nothing else I thank videogames for being able to give me an innovative solution to a long standing anxiety I have around how to passively loiter time with your friends, and with yourself. Videogame's are not limited to just doing this of course, but its one hell of an advantage its history benefits from. Most people I've seen successfully play Vampire Survivors with merit, have done it while streaming or with friends. I think its a bad game, but only in part because I know what the next best thing is and that's where I feel the focus is worth bringing. This is also why I don't believe in intellectual property rights, you could quite easily argue that 20 Minutes Till Dawn as a paid for 'mod' of Vampire Survivors in an abstract sense, and you wouldn't be entirely wrong. There's lots of mods for Slay the Spire that use the engine itself. Lots of great games are really just borrowing a large degree of its resources from something else. I believe all people who make games or mods of games deserve financial compensation for their work without the threat of jail by those who own the original assets. As this game genre continues to mutate it'll begin to harmonize more with what Heather desires in these sorts of games, not less.
While Wild Guns Reloaded plays it a bit more safe than Pocky and Rocky Reshrined, it is nonetheless everything I could've hoped for and more. Wild Guns is a great game, one of the best arcade style shooting galleries on home console by a wide margin, though perfectly capable of going toe-to-toe with arcade counterparts. Reloaded provides more than a graphical facelift, adding two additional characters with unique movesets and a handful of extra stages to breathe new life into classic and ultimately making it the definitive way to enjoy Wild Guns.
Of course you can still play as Annie or Clint, and they control about how you'd expect them to, but the real draw is newcomers Dorris and Bullet. Dorris uses explosives and lassos to clear out rooms, making her a valuable addition to a multiplayer session. Bullet, who is perhaps my favorite character in the whole lineup, is a wiener dog that attacks using a drone. This essentially gives him two hitboxes as the drone is vulnerable to being stunlocked, which helps balance out his ability to lock on to enemies. Bullet can also grab onto the bottom of his drone and fly around for a bit to dodge enemy attacks, which is just cute as hell.
Did you know? Bullet once bombed a civilian hospital but was not charged for war crimes.
The difficulty balancing feels off compared to the original. Normal feels harder than it did in the original game, and Easy feels about what Normal should be. The gameplay loop is still satisfying though, and like Pocky and Rocky Reshrined, getting a game over never truly feels punishing. Levels are short enough that a failed attempt is at worst an excuse to learn enemy patterns, and each subsequent run feels better than the last as you start to develop a rhythm for each level. I don't know if they balanced this game to factor in multiplayer as I've yet to check that out. Everything else you can expect from this game is more or less on par with the original, which is to say it's still pretty damn good.
Wild Guns Reloaded is frequently on sale for about ten bucks, which is a great price point for what you get. Buy it. Buy the damn video game. Buy it right now it's on sale!
my Harsh-But-Factually-Correct take is that sonic fan games are basically unplayable by proxy of sonic fans being youtube theorycrafter maniacs with no grasp on actual game design - let alone how to make a good platformer level. and that's fine, cause the real thing is this meticulously-crafted wonderdrug that functions entirely on millions of little gameplay details being laser-sharp and tangentially optimized - and also not giving a fuck in spots where it didn't need to. It's a testament to the classics that even the most dedicated, autism-powered creatives on the internet can't box with the O.G..
But Triple Trouble 16-bit? It comes pretty damn close. For one, the level design is generally solid! Still worse than 2 and 3, and generally too boxy and horizontal for my tastes, but it has that genesis blend of platforming, autopilot and gimmick sections that spring back and forth into each other. It understands and respects that Sonic is both a speed game AND a platform game, and that you should orchestrate a relationship between your character physics and stage design that reflects that. Besides that, it's like, got every fan favorite trimming you'd think of - cutscenes, all the elemental shields and moves, new setpiece moments, CD's [a e s t h e t i c] menus and unlockables - the package speaks for itself, it's very Mania-core.
Music is hit or miss, mostly by way of missing layering on some lead instruments or other midi-flipper shenanigans. Y'know how you can tell when a Genesis song sounds 'flat'? You know it when you hear it - it's missing a fade into vibrato or an echo, and so you hear the same tone for too long and it sounds like bad midi. There's some of that here. The composers all GET how to make good Genesis music, but not like, GREAT music, and you don't get there without sitting your ass down in a real Genny tracker and learning its limitations and deeper features. John Tay's remixes shit on everyone else's contributions because of this, to be brutally honest.
If you're like me and dodged most sonic fan games for not feeling like the originals, this is like, 85% of the way there. Definitely worth your time.
I'm unsure if there's a proper term for it... - in German maybe? - that describes a rite of passage through young adulthood that I'm sure everyone on this site has experienced on some level, at some time: finally having the disposable income to obtain something you coveted in childhood and then inevitably finding out that it wasn't everything (or even anything) that the media and advertising you consumed as a child promised you that it would be.
For me, many of these holy capital-cultural artefacts centre on Pokémon. I know it's cliche to refer to yet another Japanese entertainment juggernaut as something analogous to a religion, but it's hard to deny the comparison when your town's priest spent a lot of time between 1997 and the new millennium talking about the Satanic properties of Mr. Mime, Magikarp and Misty. The Catholic Church was afraid of Zubat for a while.
The mysticism of Pokémon was so strong in rural Scotland that my school descended into riots over Pokémon not once, but twice. When someone in our class sent a mail order to China for a copy of Pokémon Silver almost a full year before the game even existed in Europe, people handled it with the same practiced reverence they'd use at the church across the road, carrying it faithfully like it was a relic called the Ark of the Crobat or the Holy Granbull; a really cute snapshot through the crack in time that succeeded the rise of global capitalism and Thatcherite deregulation of children's advertising and preceded the advent of the mainstream internet and all that it entailed. We got our cheat codes from a newspaper back then, and the day the MissingNo glitch was revealed sent our schoolyard into rapture. But like all religions I've been involved in, time eventually revealed this false Pokéfaith for what it was - a moralless money-making vehicle for paedophiles.
While Pokémon Puzzle League wasn't high on the list of Pokérelics I coveted, it still excited me, I think - the idea of a puzzle game (I already adored Tetris) with Pokémon (I already adored Pokémon) that was faithful to the anime (I already adored Pokémon: The Animated Series) was so exciting to me, but I always ended up choosing classic N64 titles like Earthworm Jim 3D and California Speed whenever I finally scrounged together something for the offertory at Electronics Boutique. Perhaps I wasn’t as committed as I remember myself being. Finally playing through it in 2022, decades removed the incident at my school where a nine-year-old kid was beaten up for selling fake shiny Charizard cards, I could no longer believe in the utter pish that I'd been drinking back then. I couldn't even muster a smile for a MIDI instrumental cover of the PokéRap on the title screen... What's become of me? I guess this is what it means to be an adult.
At the time of writing this I'm about 6 hours into it and honestly the thought of trying to finish it is kind of depressing. Let me explain, back in the PS1 era getting a hold of Suikoden 1 and 2 was extremely difficult. A lot of JRPGs back then had pretty limited runs in Europe and games weren't digital then. It took me a few years to track them both down as I didn't have a lot of money as a teenager but I did manage it and I loved both of them dearly. Fast forward to 2020 with the Eiyuden Chronicle Hundred Heroes Kickstarter and seeing a series I loved being revived by some of it's creators in such a stylish way was like a dream come true I threw my weight behind straight away as did a group of my friends. Having it's spin off prequel title land with all the impact of a deflated balloon is depressing not because the game itself is bad (it is) but because of what it potentially represents for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes itself when it finally comes out.
As for Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising itself, as I said, it's bad. Not bad as in anger inducing, glitchy or unbearable but just bad in the fact it's insanely boring and I'm struggling to find the motivation to finish it at the moment. I am finding myself watching TV or play other shorter games to avoid playing it. It feels almost like an unwanted chore which is a terrible way to describe a game.
It's sort of a mix of 2D platformer, RPG and Castlevania in one and it's just awful at all three aspects. The combat is incredibly shallow, a few attacks, a dodge and some link attacks with other characters. Each of the three characters is mapped to a different button that jump in when you press it but it's incredibly cumbersome and except the main character CJ they feel awful to use so except for a big damage hit you'll only use her anyway. You can upgrade your armour and abilities in the town normally by completing side quests to unlock more upgrade options but they add a terrible feeling double jump, a charge attack and other stuff you won't really use.
As mentioned the double jump feels bad but then the level design is just awful anyway. Each dungeon is like maybe 12 rooms with nothing interesting, there might be the odd platform or crystal that blocks your way to return to later but it feels so hastily thrown together are so bereft of interesting design choices, it's just completely forgettable or utterly pointless in the crystal's case because there is almost never anything interesting except to make you come back for materials. And come back you will, this games quest system or more specifically the quest design is possibly the worst of any game I've ever played. They are so tedious it blows my mind. "Talk to this character 3 screens over and come back," "go get 4 bits of lumber from the forest" etc. They are bottom of the barrel fetch quests and many of them are actually forced as part of the main game to proceed. It's agonizing. The sad part is the general set up idea is good of adventurers helping develop a struggling town in the middle of nowhere in return for exploring old ruins. This should develop the town unlock new options and enable good character interactions but every single aspect of it is delivered in the most bland way possible.
It does have some positives, the visual design generally is pretty good, I like the graphics and art design of the characters though even trying to write a positive I'm reminded of how bizarrely poor the animation is (Reminds me of the paper figures you make move with pins in school as a kid and how the 4 enemy designs seem to be endlessly repeated. Still the music is pretty nice I guess?
As a first showing of the series by the team this has been an absolute let down, the biggest complement I can give it is it's at least technically playable but having thought about it, I think I'm just going to drop it. It just isn't fun gameplay wise.
+ Nice art design and music.
+ Great idea for adventurers helping build a town whilst exploring ruins...
-....implemented terribly with soul crushingly quests.
- Combat is shallow.
- Level design and platforming feel low effort.
- Enemies just palette swap.
- Animations are a little weird.
First things first; I love this game. There really isn’t a mainline Mario I don’t have a great amount of affection for. But something’s missing here, compared to its predecessor.
Super Mario Galaxy is amazing. You all know it. Mario’s first adventure through space is universally (get it) adored, so in making a sequel (originally supposed to be dlc basically) there’s some pretty damn big expectations to live up to. Streamlining is the name of the game here, and Galaxy 2 sure does it, with all the good and bad that comes with it. The levels themselves have some of the best linear platforming that’s ever come out of Mario, and that seems to be enough for a lot of people, more power to ‘em. But again, the streamlining got rid of something I hold in high regard in the first game. Compared to the original, it doesn’t feel nearly as gorgeous or epic, in general less atmospheric. Starry Skies skyboxes are much less frequent, replaced with blue skies with white clouds. There are less beautiful orchestral pieces, replaced with… what feels like just plain orchestral Mario music (and sometimes just is, see Hightail Falls, Haunty Halls, the slide theme, etc.). This change in music is strongly reflected on the games title screens, giving off entirely different feelings, Galaxy 1’s being a feeling of drifting in space, looking at the beauty of the twinkling stars around you, while Galaxy 2’s is much more peppy and cheery, and feels more like a more generic “start to a Mario adventure” song. Sure, Galaxy 1 doesn’t keep this up the entire time, Toy Time Galaxy is an extremely silly level, but not much in Galaxy 2 compares to the feeling that levels like Space Junk Galaxy’s music and atmosphere together create.
Story took a hit as well, although it's not either game’s strong suit. Rosalina’s story book was a genuine surprise for so many, due to being a very emotional look into a character's backstory (pretty damn rare for a mario game, if you somehow didn’t know that). That’s why when Rosalina was basically ignored in Galaxy 2 in favor of Lubba, a character without much depth at all, it feels like something was taken. Speaking of these two support figures, the hub worlds they reside in also reflect what’s missing. I barely need to talk about The Comet Observatory hopefully, its music and scale perfectly describe itself (in addition I just genuinely have no idea how to talk about it because it’s a game location that means tons to me). In contrast, Starship Mario, while serving its function outside of being a gateway to the world map, doesn’t have much to offer outside of discussion with some NPC’s. It’s also simply a floating Mario head, which really just further cements how much more “Mario-like” Galaxy 2 is. (in addition having a mario head that doesn’t ask if it can have my computer is a sin)
This isn’t to say Galaxy 2 doesn’t have its atmospheric moments however, which I feel like really shine through in Cosmic Cove Galaxy (honorable mention to Slimy Spring, which I only didn’t choose because I have less to say about it). Cosmic Cove is my favorite level in Galaxy 2 because of its strong atmosphere, the music has made me tear up even while listening to it while writing this, the beautiful aurora-like sky, it’s gorgeous aquatic environment that even when frozen later I love skating over, and the couple penguins that live there as well making it feel like it has a native population. There are other music tracks as well that show that Galaxy 1 epicness in them as well, take Melty Monster as an example. It's intense, and perfectly builds up to a truly very grand musical climax. These examples and other moments within Galaxy 2 show that if they wanted, they could have kept that epic feel that Galaxy 1 captured so elegantly.
Galaxy 2 took what Galaxy 1 did and streamlined every part of it, the platforming and levels benefitting from it while the atmosphere of the game is harshly damaged. So in the end, is this trade-off worth it? It’s up to you to decide, of course, but personally? I don’t think so.
This game is very weird. It isn't anything special, can get repetitive quickly in the mission structure, it reuses maps after 3 areas...
The game was also rushed out, best shown by the final level being cut in half and most missions consisting of going from edge 1 to edge 2.
And yet... It's fondly remembered by a lot of people, and for pretty good reasons.
It has a lot of charm through the voice talent and the music is phenomenal, there are references and callbacks everywhere... It's very enjoyable to play through and the simplicity is one of the reasons why modding it is so popular.
Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs The Soulless Army is a very long title, so for levity's sake, I'll refer to it as "Raidou 1" from here on out.
Taking place in the Taisho Era (that's the "Roaring 20's" for us American dogs), you play as the 14th designated inheritor of the title of "Raidou Kuzunoha". As part of the Narumi Detective Agency, you take on the stranger, more demonic cases brought to your attention. You go around town, talking to people, using your demons' powers to get further reactions out of the populace. You can also send your demons out solo, to get past the unaware humans or reach areas that Raidou can't get to. Some of the more innocent demons refer to this as "playing detective", which is the cutest thing ever.
The world is presented via pre-rendered backdrops with fixed camera angles. The Taisho era definitely gives this game an atmosphere that no other Megaten game has. This game has my favorite "Cathedral of Shadows/Goumaden" of the whole franchise, literally a mad scientist's laboratory. I really like how expressive Kazuma Kaneko's character designs get to be in this game. Shoji Meguro accompanies this world with one of his funkiest, jazziest soundtracks ever. It kinda feels like he brought his signature Persona vibes over to this title, giving us some perfect tunes for a detective on the beat, or a summoner in battle.
Of all the SMT games out there, one mostly universal constant is the demons providing quirky dialogue to offset the dark tones that the games typically thrive on. Raidou 1 stands out from the crowd by having a fairly quirky tone all throughout, and in turn is one of the most amusing SMT games I've ever played. When investigating, NPCs have consistently enjoyable dialogue, and you can draw even funnier dialogue out by using a demon's skills on them. There are moments where the game has you do "demon negotiation" as a gag, seeing as Raidou's typical way of making friends is confining them into test tubes. The tone is a lot more lighthearted than most SMT titles, but it does know when and how to reel things back in, get serious, and keep you invested.
Also unlike most SMT games, Raidou 1 is a real-time action game. Raidou wields a blade and a gun, but unfortunately, this is no Devil May Cry. All you get is a three-hit combo, a lunge attack, and a spin attack. None of it really chains together, and combat feels really stiff overall. The bullets you can shoot come in many different elemental varieties, and are mostly used to hit an enemy's weakness, opening them up for more damage via your sword strikes. Raidou can also guard with his blade, integral to survival. Being a Devil Summoner(TM), Raidou can summon one of his demons to fight by his side in battle. Their helpfulness can go either way, if I'm being honest. If you're attacking efficiently as Raidou, you'll often end up pushing your demon's targeted enemy juuuust out of the range of their attack, due to long windup animations. There were times where I tried to attack the enemy in a way that wouldn't squander my demon's attacks, but that felt like a makeshift solution to a problem that shouldn't have been there to begin with. I also found that giving a demon a healing skill activates a very dominant strategy: tanking all damage and letting your demon heal you. To be fair, if your demons aren't attacking effectively, putting them on eternal support mode isn't the worst idea, but it kinda locks off gameplay potential. Lastly, when a demon is sent out on a solo investigation, you actually have full control over that demon during random encounters, which is pretty novel for an SMT game, spinoff or otherwise.
I think the big hangup with the combat comes from the pacing. If this were a turn-based SMT, I would likely be at the edge of my fucking seat for every turn of battle, even if the fight took upwards of 20-30 minutes. When you shift to real-time action, you shouldn't keep enemy health pools that large. Repetition and tedium set in really fast when you're required to be directly involved in combat at all times. Several bosses feel like they go on for far too long, really just boiling down to becoming a war of attrition. I admit that it's entirely possible that I just wasn't playing the game right, and didn't fuse the powerful demons I should've had at that point. One problem with that: You can only fuse demons that you have max loyalty with. This feels like a pointless extra step that only serves to enable more grinding. Furthermore, I tried to keep a party of demons that would allow me access to as many field skills as possible at any time, partly because I enjoy all the flavor text, but also because you never know when a field skill will be mandatory for progression. Fusing demons did in fact lead me to hit a roadblock like that on more than one occasion. I may also just be directionally challenged, but I found the overworld map very confusing. A lot of train fares were wasted on me not remembering which area was called what, and not knowing where to go next.
Raidou Kuzunoha VS. The Soulless Army is definitely a game of ups and downs, but for the most part, I was delighted by this title every step of the way. It's just unfortunate that its roughest spots are kind of the most critical ones. This game has been mentioned quite a bit in Atlus's customer surveys as of late, possibly testing the waters for a potential remake. Raidou 1's rough spots could probably be ironed out with a good remake, or perhaps......a sequel.
"No one will care about my death if I can't prove to them that I lived."
A bite-sized piece of surreal horror that sees you wielding a sledgehammer in an office high-rise with reckless abandon until, eventually, you find a chair that bleeds. Visual direction and sound design are playful and crunchy, the act of destroying the sets you are placed in is itself a joyous catharsis that will quickly become a panicked rush to save a dying man from a game of Prop Hunt in ever-increasing rooms of uncertainty. A melancholy fantasy about turning a life of inaction into one of constant action. The cancer wasn't just within.
Full review soon since i need rereview the first game as to why this sequel didn't hit as hard for me, it's still a decent game with a lot of improvements but the difficulty is pretty inconsistent, levels weren't as fun or memorable and story while funny is a mess and feels rushed, it's still fun especially with Ratchet's movement and Weapons/Gadgets but feels like they took a step foward then another step back with any improvements made.
90% of this just completely floored me. I usually take a long ass time to finish a game that’s more than like 10 hours long but I just beat this 30+ hour game in like 5 days because I just could not put it down.
The writing, the world, and the moment to moment gameplay all coalesce so beautifully and it’s just classic Rockstar. I loved all the hilarious, completely intentionally unsubtle satire (most of which is still completely relevant today… some of it even more so than in 2013) and I ESPECIALLY loved how the 3 main characters were written. Michael, Trevor and Franklin are an iconic trio and I just can’t get over not only how well written they are, but also how wonderful their respective actor’s performances are.
Gameplay wise, it’s GTA. But heists. Lots of heists. And all of the heists here are these insane set pieces that get crazier and crazier as you go. I loved it. And, like always with R* games, the downtime between missions just driving to missions either with the BANGER soundtrack playing on the radio or listening to the characters have these consistently brilliant and life-like conversations with each other, just adds so much to this story and the feel of the world. You just feel like you’re in it and I LIVE for that shit.
Sadly there is some stuff that annoyed me, namely a couple of missions that were genuinely some of the most frustrating missions in recent memory.. and even at 60fps the controls can still feel a little unruly sometimes which can also be frustrating. But that’s kinda it as far as complaints go.
I think I’ll be thinking about this one in the back of my brain for a while, there’s some great themes baked into this wild heist story and the atmosphere of Los Santos has permeated me in the same way all of the R* titles I’ve played have.
I really hope GTA 6 isn’t a fucking live service.